Lead Review

  • Book: Afraid of the Light
  • Location: California, Los Angeles
  • Author: Douglas Kennedy

Review Author: Tina Hartas



The author has chosen a sensitive topic to be at the heart of his latest novel, set on the roads criss crossing the city of Los Angeles and into the wider state of California.

Brendan lost his job and is now driving an Uber taxi. As a reader, you get to find out a lot about the pretty joyless occupation, the disrespect, the charges levied by the company and the stress of earning pretty much a pittance, despised by many clients who grace the back seat of his car. It is sobering to learn of their plight.

At home his wife is a fervent anti abortion activist. His friend and Catholic priest, Todor, espouses her thinking. Brendan is out on a limb, together with his daughter Klara, and both support a woman’s right to choose. He struggles, however, to counter the strident beliefs of Todor and his wife Agnieska and you can tell that the depiction of entrenched black and white thinking and behaviour comes from the author’s personal experience. The lines are tautly drawn.

Brendan drops a fare off at a clinic and he witnesses a firebombing of the premises. His latest passenger is a doula for the women who have chosen to undergo a termination and they begin to form a bond. He is assailed from all sides by strong and opposing views but he keeps his eyes firmly on the actual and metaphorical road, keeping his counsel. The character so reminded me of Micah Mortimer, the stoic fussbudget in Anne Tylers’ Baltimore set novel Redhead By The Side Of The Road.

The drudge and status quo of Brendan’s life is about to change.

This novel has a challenging heart, a story written by a firm and capable hand that will leave you pondering some of the big issues of the 21st Century. A little slow at times – the traffic in LA seems to be permanently snarled – it nevertheless delivers on many thought provoking levels.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

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Entries close 6th November 2021